A research team at the University of Oxford's Jenner Institute is preparing to begin clinical testing on a new vaccine candidate to fight the coronavirus; the vaccine could be available in months.
Known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, the 'seed stock' is currently being produced at the University's Clinical Biomanufacturing Facility, and will be transferred to Italian manufacturer Advent who will initially produce 1,000 doses for the first clinical trials of the vaccine, reports the Daily Express.
Officially known as COVID-19, the coronavirus is a new strain of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that killed nearly 800 people in the early 1990s.
Professor Sarah Gilbert of the Jenner Institute said: "Novel pathogens such as COVID-19 require rapid vaccine development. By using technology that is known to work well for another coronavirus vaccine we are able to reduce the time taken to prepare for clinical trials."
"Advent are working with us to move as rapidly as possible."
The World Health Organization (WHO) previously warned that a vaccine could take a year-and-a-half to be produced.
The Oxford team had already been working on a vaccine against a distant relative of the virus, known as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) which was first reported in 2012, but has been identified as a likely cause for future epidemics.
So far, it has shown to induce strong immune responses against MERS after a single dose of the vaccine in the first clinical trial which took place in Oxford.
A second clinical trial of the MERS vaccine is under way in Saudi Arabia, which is where most MERS cases have occurred
The same approach to making the vaccine is being taken for the novel coronavirus vaccine.
The vaccines are produced using a safe version of an adenovirus; another virus that can cause common cold-like illness. The adenovirus has been modified so that it cannot reproduce within the body, and the genetic code to provide instructions for making the coronavirus has been added.
That results in the formation of antibodies, which can bind to the coronavirus and stop it from causing an infection.
It is now a fight against time to get the vaccine to China, as some experts warn the virus could "mutate".
Rob Grenfell, Director of Health and Biosecurity at Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), and Trevor Drew, Director of the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL), said that as COVID-19 is an animal virus which was passed on to humans, it has already shown it is capable of mutating.
As it is passes from person to person and region to region, it will continue to mutate even more, perhaps differently in varying regions of the world.
Dr Grenfell and Dr Drew pointed out: "As the virus continues to infect people, it is going through something of a stabilisation, which is part of the mutation process. This mutation process may even vary in different parts of the world, for various reasons."
"This includes population density, which influences the number of people infected and how many opportunities the virus has to mutate."